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McNeill shows class in wake of personal tragedy

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – When it comes to athletes dealing with the media, fans often only hear the grisly details of evasive responses or one-word answers.

But allow me to peel back the curtain on my exchange with George McNeill on Sunday afternoon.

This was after McNeill had entered the final round knowing his oldest sister, Michele, was dying soon. After he played with a heavy heart and somehow posted a 9-under 61. After he’d said directly following his round that he didn’t want to speak about her. After he found out she passed away, then he waited two hours to see whether his score would hold up for a possible playoff.


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I found him in the locker room, about to leave the course. I told him that I knew he didn’t want to speak about Michele, but that I’d like to know any details he could provide, so as to better tell the story of his day.

Rather than blow me off or speak in generalities, McNeill told me everything. He confided that she had passed away and that he didn’t know until after his round.

My tape recorder shows that we had a five-minute, 51-second conversation, but it felt like an hour. During a time when the last thing he probably wanted to do was talk, he talked. It wasn’t necessary, but considering the circumstances, it was an extremely classy gesture.